Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday/Celebration Sale!

To celebrate both the upcoming holidays and the announcement of ABNA 2013, Just You is only $1.00 at AMAZON and $0.99 at  KOBO!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

ABNA 2013

It's that time again. Thousands of writers from all over the world are flocking to Amazon to enter their book babies in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Can you feel the excitement? I sure can.

This year, ABNA has changed. There will be five categories: General Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, Romance, and Young Adult. One finalist will be named from each of these five categories. Penguin is out. The grand prize winner now gets published by Amazon Publishing and this includes a $50,000 advance! Wow! And the rest of the finalists ALSO get a publishing contract with Amazon (and a $15,000 advance). ABNA has really stepped up their game this year. These are amazing prizes, you guys.

As one of last year's finalists, and a person who has entered ABNA a grand total of three times, I have a lot of advice to pass on to the new crop of entrants:

1. This should go without saying, but make sure your manuscript is 100% finished, edited, and polished to a high gloss shine.

2. Need help with your pitch? Take a peek at mine or ask for help on the ABNA forum pitch thread.

3. Yes, you can enter your self-published book. At least half of last year's finalists were/are self-published.

4. DO NOT...I repeat, DO NOT...put your name anywhere on your pitch, excerpt, or manuscript. You will be disqualified.

5. Your excerpt must be the FIRST 3000-5000 words of your manuscript. Stop it at a good point. Leave them hanging.

6. Don't be discouraged if your second round reviews aren't the greatest. Mine weren't.

7. If you're not from the US, and you make it to the semi-finals, make sure you have a current passport, just in case. I didn't.

8. Participate in the discussions on the ABNA forum. The people there are not only interesting and hilarious, they are also extremely supportive. There's a lot of waiting involved in the ABNA contest, so why not pass the time with other writers who are going through the same thing?

9. If you're anything like me, you might want to blog about ABNA so future entrants can read about the process.

10. See #4 again. This mistake knocks out at least one person every year.

Have fun and GOOD LUCK with ABNA 2013! You're in for a wild ride.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Douchebags - Hot or Not?

For a while now, I've been noticing a trend in popular YA/New Adult (and some adult books too): Alpha male/douchebag love interests and the girls who put up with them because they are hot. It's everywhere.

Now, I appreciate a misunderstood, imperfect bad boy, but only if he has redeeming qualities and is a decent person at heart. These days, a lot of teens and women seem to be swooning over guys who I think are total psychopaths. I'm sorry, but if the love interest is a total jerk who treats his girlfriend like crap, I don't care how hot he is. I will not swoon.

I can't help but recall what I was reading as a teen and how I might have reacted to the content in books today. I mean, I remember being scandalized when Michael told Katherine she was acting like a bitch in Judy Blume's Forever (even though she kind of was acting like one, being all jealous of whats-her-face for no reason). And would Christopher, the nutcase who stalks Jessica in Two Boy Weekend, be considered more sexy than scary today? Even though he doesn't have fangs?

Considering my undying love for Sarah Dessen, perhaps I've adopted a different view of what love interests should look like in a typical YA book. Take Wes from The Truth About Foreverfor exampleHe's my favorite YA book boyfriend ever. He's the measuring stick against which I hold all my own boy characters. He's the kind of guy every girl--real and imaginary--deserves.

In my opinion, the YA world could use more a little more Wes.

(By the way, the first four books listed in my Indie Gems post all have amazing, yummy, mysterious-and-troubled-but-incredibly-sexy, non-douchebaggy love interests. That's part of why I enjoyed them as much as I did.)

Monday, October 29, 2012


Most indie authors struggle with sales. Sure, there are a select few who seem to sell thousands within weeks of publishing, but I think they are the exception to the rule. We all work hard, but some books just take off for whatever reason while others either don't sell at all or rise slow and steady. Of course, it all depends on genre, marketing, book covers, writing, story, etc.

What we all need, especially on Amazon, is traction. We need to figure out how to make more sales, so our books get more visibility, which results in more sales. This may take weeks, months, or even years.

In the past two weeks, I think I've started to accomplish this traction.

I published Just You and Someone Else at the end of June, 2012. I started advertising on social media around July 1, so let's go with that date. Sales were modest but steady for July. In August, they plummeted. Did some blog interviews, more marketing, and nada. September picked up a little, but still nothing to write home about. So I thought, hey, maybe I should do something about it.

On September 10, I lowered the price of Just You to $0.99 everywhere (Someone Else stayed at $2.99). Advertised again. Sales started to steadily climb with both books. Finally, about two weeks ago, I started seeing Just You in the "Customers who bought this item also bought" section, under some high-ranking books. Indies know how important those coveted spots are. Lots of people click through the "also boughts". Being there gives you visibility and increases sales. And when you get there, the $0.99 price tag makes you even more attractive.

October has been my best month yet. No, I'm not in the top 100 (not even close) but daily sales in the double-digits are better than a big fat zero. Naturally, most of the sales are on the cheaper book, but my $2.99 book has benefited too. The more people who read your work and like it, the bigger your fanbase grows, the more reviews you'll receive, and the more success you'll have on future books.

But to gain that traction, you have to experiment with different, pricing, blurbs, covers. Take a look at the top-sellers in your genre. Find out what works. For me, it was the price adjustment. And patience. Keep in mind, it took me almost four months to see a rise in sales, and it didn't really pick up until I appeared in the "also boughts".

In order to sell your book, people have to see your book.

Want to help your favorite author gain visibility and traction on Amazon? Here are 10 quick and easy things you can do.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Indie Gems

Let's face it. Some self-published books, even a few of those extremely popular ones, are badly written and horribly (if at all) edited. They give all other indie authors a bad name.

But sometimes, if you dig hard enough, you come across a true indie gem. There are lots of them out there, books so professional-looking and polished and well-written, you can't tell them apart from the traditionally-published ones. Now that self-publishing is being taken more seriously, the quality of the books seems to be improving. People are working hard and making a living off self-publishing, and that is fantastic. The stigma is lifting. We have choices. We can take control. It's an exciting time to be a writer!

So, I've decided to compile a small list of some true Indie Gems I have read so far this year:

Easy by Tammara Webber

New Adult. This was an "easy" (haha) choice. Started out as an indie but I heard it was picked up by a traditional publisher. Oh, this book. Lucas. *swoon* I was hooked from the start. Great writing, great story, great voice. Sexy as hell. New Adult is a very popular self-pub genre because apparently it's hard for an agent to sell. But boy, does it sell the self-pub way.

Twisted by Amity Hope

Young Adult Contemporary. This one has romance, mystery, suspense, bullying, and some really heart-wrenching moments. Compelling story and characters. Tight writing. I'll be sure to check out Amity Hope's past and future books.

The Secret of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

New Adult. Another swoon-worthy, sexy romance with so much more. Ms. Sorensen is extremely talented at sprinkling backstory only when it's needed. No info-dumps here. Great chemistry between the main characters. Just enough mystery and intrigue to keep you reading. And there's a sequel (or two?) coming!

Lost In Thought by Cara Bertrand

Young Adult Paranormal. Mystery, suspense, likable narrator, twists, turns, hot guys, dead people...what more can you want? And look at this beautiful cover! Cara is a fellow Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award finalist and I'm a big fan of her writing. She sure leaves me hanging with those endings of hers.

Wool by Hugh Howey

All I can say about this indie author is damn, he can write. This incredible, riveting, post-apocalyptic story is split into five parts. The first one is free, and only 56 pages, so you can test it out risk-free. You can also buy all 5 parts together. As for me, I read the first part and then RAN to Amazon to buy the entire book. Ridley Scott wants to turn this book into a movie! Now that is an indie success story.

That's it for now, but I'm positive this list will grow as I discover more talented indie writers.

What are some of your favorite Indie Gems? Let me know and I'll be sure to check them out.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The benefits of ABNA

When querying agents, did my status as ABNA Finalist give me a leg up?

First, here is the query I used:

I am currently seeking representation for my 69,000 word contemporary young adult novel, titled OUT OF NOWHERE.

At eleven years old, Riley Tate witnessed the sudden death of her father. Now, at sixteen, she still can’t bring herself to step on “the spot”—the section of kitchen floor on which her father landed after collapsing from a brain aneurysm. For someone like Riley, a hypochondriac with anxiety issues, moving on is never easy.

Since losing her dad, Riley has become obsessed with the human body, how it works, and what can go wrong with it. Reading about diseases distracts her from the things she’s not ready to deal with, like the fact that her mother started a whole new family with a man who has more muscles than brains and tries to act like her new dad. And that her doctor thinks she’s a mental case. And that her ex-boyfriend dumped her because she wouldn’t have sex with him. But she refuses to let anything—especially not a guy—interfere with her dream of becoming a surgeon.

When she meets Cole Boyer in an ER waiting room, Riley realizes immediately that he’s far from the safe, predictable boy she usually goes for.  A fearless daredevil with mysterious scars and a thirst for all things dangerous, Cole is like an accident waiting to happen. Still, despite their differences, they forge an unlikely friendship that eventually blossoms into something more. Dating someone who’s so casual about death has its challenges, but as Riley soon learns, not everyone can be—or needs to be—saved.

OUT OF NOWHERE was one of the three finalists in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, YA category. Publishers Weekly called it “a very good example of a contemporary coming-of-age novel, with well-rounded characters and honest emotion”. With a blend of heavy issues and humor, OUT OF NOWHERE explores the total randomness of life, death, and love.

I started querying on July 16, 2012. Out of all the agents I queried, I got 3 requests for partials and 7 requests for the full manuscript. Responses came quick, most within the first week. I signed with my agent on August 3. Less than three weeks...that was how quick it was.

I believe ABNA did open doors for me. I got personal feedback from several of the agents who passed on me. Only a couple of form rejections. Tons of compliments. All the agents were extremely encouraging. Such a different experience than a few years ago, when I was querying my first book.

This is a hard business to break into and every little bit helps. So make your manuscript shine. Use contests like ABNA. Seek feedback. Query your butt off and never give up. If it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Author Interview and Spookygirl

I have two things I want to mention today:

1) I'm featured today on Laurie's Non-Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews. You can read an excerpt and enter to win a FREE copy of my first book, Just You.

(If you're an author, I highly recommend contacting Laurie. She does a great job organizing and promoting these interviews.)

2) 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest winner, Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator by Jill Baguchinsky, is available today! Check it out. Jill, I wish you much success!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New website!

My husband made me this awesome new website and I didn't even have to pay him.

Isn't it pretty?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Agent News!

Today, I'm thrilled to announce that I have an agent. It's been a crazy week, a crazy year, and these past two months especially have been the most exciting, exhilarating, stressful months of my writing career. Being a finalist in ABNA has led me to this day.

My new agent is Carly Watters from P.S. Literary Agency  ( I'm so excited to be working with Carly. She's enthusiastic and attentive and she also has an awesome blog. She loves and believes in Out of Nowhere, just like I do, and I can't really ask for much more than that.

Official Announcement

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kobo Writing Life and Self-Publishing

Kobo Writing Life

I signed up a few weeks ago to be notified when Kobo Writing Life becomes live and I got a notification yesterday. I decided to opt out of Kobo on my Smashwords account and give KWL a whirl.

Easiest. Self-publishing platform. Ever.

It took ten minutes to publish both my books. Seriously. AND they will pay me in Canadian dollars. AND they will pay me direct deposit. AND their stats page is awesome. And on and on. Love it. Word of advice though...upload .epub versions of your books. Any other version looks wonky on their preview thingie.

So without further ado, Just You and Someone Else are now available HERE and HERE.


It's been about two and a half weeks since I self-published my books and let me tell you, it's been an experience. My sales have been modest but steady. I've gotten some amazing reviews/ratings and some "meh" ones. But the "meh" doesn't bother me. Not everyone is going to like my books and writing. They're not for everyone. Such is life. My skin is as thick as that steel-cut oatmeal my husband forces down sometimes.

Anyway, things are definitely going in the right direction with my self-pub experiment.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

You can now buy Just You and Someone Else

Remember I said I was going to self-publish my first two books someday? The two books I'd "permanently" trunked? Well, after four days of formatting issues and torture, I finally did it. Just You and Someone Else are officially for sale. They are a series, by the way, and were written a few years ago. Right now they're just ebooks, but in the near future I also plan to publish with CreateSpace.

You can buy Just You HERE and HERE.

You can buy Someone Else HERE and HERE.

Monday, June 18, 2012

ABNA in Seattle

[To follow my ABNA journey from the very beginning, click the ABNA label at the bottom of this post]

I have so, so much to say about my trip to Seattle, that I'm just going to do it like I did the "week of the finals" post: day by day.

But first, here are some pictures!

Okay, go use the washroom, get a drink, and then make yourself comfy. Here we go:


My husband and I got up at the ungodly hour of 4:30am to get ready to leave. I'd packed the day before, made a huge, detailed list on which I'd been routinely checking things off for the last two days, so I knew I had everything. We were scheduled to fly out of Halifax at 8 something. We got there early, went through security, etc. Plane left on time.

Okay, right now, go look at Nova Scotia on a North American map. We're waaaaaay over there, along the Atlantic ocean. See how far we have to go to get to Washington? Yeah. It's far. We had a layover in Chicago. From Halifax to Chicago--about 3 hours. Time difference from Halifax--2 hours. Chicago to Seattle--about 4 hours. Time difference from Halifax--4 hours. We were completely bedraggled by then. The first thing we did at Sea-Tac was head for a Starbucks (you can't go three feet without tripping over a Starbucks in Seattle. It's like Tim Horton's in Nova Scotia). Let me tell you, Seattle, your coffee is stronger than ours. Felt better immediately.

We had a bit of a hard time finding our driver, but only because we are dumb and didn't go to the correct spot right away. He was standing there with a sign with my name on it. So cool. He was this nice young man who told us he was working as a driver to pay his way through school. We ended up getting the same driver on the way back, but anyway. He took us to our hotel and we checked in. Grand Hyatt Seattle is a really nice hotel. The bathroom is bigger than most hotel rooms. Tom Kephart from Amazon handled the driver, hotels, everything.

Speaking of Thom, I wasn't supposed to meet him until Saturday morning but I ended up meeting him about an hour after we arrived. Backtracking a little...after we checked in, Jason (my husband) and I headed straight out to the Wells-Fargo bank on Olive to cash the Amazon spending money check that I received the week before. The reason I hadn't cashed it at home in Canada was because they refused to. So I took it straight to the bank in Seattle, where, as it turned out, they also refused to cash it. (Side note: while we were in there, this crazy drunk guy came in and was ranting like a lunatic. I was sure we were all going to be shot and I could even picture the headline "Canadian writer shot in Seattle while trying to cash check. Missed the ABNA gala.") Anyway, I emailed Thom and explained the situation, and he came straight to the hotel, walked us back to the Wells-Fargo bank, and had it all fixed in about three minutes. Thom Kephart is a super hero.

By then, I was almost late for a 5:30 dinner with all the finalists and their guests. This was a plan the six of us concocted about two weeks prior via email (Alan's from Seattle and knows where to go). But we made it just in time. I knew from the second I walked into the hotel lobby who was who. They all looked exactly like their pictures. We walked to the Steelhead Diner for dinner. Jason and I were half-comatose by then, but damn it, we were going to do this.

Dinner was fun, aside from the fact that I almost fell asleep in the bread basket at one point. It was so nice to meet everyone and get to know each other a little before our big day on Saturday. We got comfortable with other, we laughed, we was great.

By nine, Jason and I were D-O-N-E. Back to the hotel to sleep.


Still on Atlantic time, Jason and I woke up at 4:00am. We had plenty of time to get ready for breakfast at Lola with all the finalists, their guests, Thom, and Kent and Elissa from Penguin. Coffee. Yes! Breakfast was a casual affair and strangely enough, no one ordered the octopus.

After breakfast, we all split up. Jason and I caught the monorail to the Space Needle.Yes, we did go up to the top. Such a touristy thing. Then we went to Pike's Place Market, which was so crowded it almost made me cry. We walked around, bought some souvenirs, had lunch. Seattle is a nice reminds me of a grown-up Halifax with the water and fish and all that.

Finally, it was time to get ready for the gala. Back in the hotel room, it took me an hour to straighten my hair (it's naturally curly and annoying). My nerves were jumping by then. It's really hard to put in contact lenses and apply makeup with a shaking hand. Everyone met in the lobby at 6:00pm, all wearing that same OH MY GOD IT'S ALMOST TIME HELP ME face. Even Thom was nervous. A van brought us to the Sculpture Park where the gala was being held. We got nametags. There were drinks (I stuck to water). There was food (I couldn't eat). There were people from Amazon, Penguin, CreateSpace, and Publisher's Weekly there (intimidating).

Almost right way I met Amy Ackley, winner of the 2010 ABNA for YA. She hugged me. I gushed about her book, which I'd just read a few weeks ago. She was gorgeous and nice and funny. Next I met the one person I was kind of worried about meeting--Libby, the woman who called me on May 14 to give me the news. The first thing I said to her was "I'm so sorry". Read my previous blog post to see how I reacted when she called me. She was gracious and mentioned how much she enjoyed calling the finalists and hearing their reactions. I guess I wasn't the only one who cried and/or was speechless.

7pm--food service. I was so NOT hungry. I had three bites of salad, one bite of salmon, and a peanut butter cookie. Everyone seemed to love the mashed potato station, but I couldn't risk too much solid food. The speeches began. I sat next to a lady from PW, who kept cracking me up with her dry remarks.

Amy Ackley spoke, Libby, the PW lady, a Penguin person, a CreateSpace person. THEN, the finalists. *gulp* Cassandra was first. She did great. I was next. I was so nervous I was about two seconds away from toppling off my chair. I wrote everything down and pretty much read it verbatim. I screwed up at least five times. When I thanked my fellow finalists, I'm pretty sure I called Cassandra "Cassie" instead of Casey, which is what everyone calls her. I had Cassandra written down and tried to change it to Casey at the last second, I guess. Also, my cat's name is Cassie so I say it a lot. LOL I'm so sorry, Casey.

The rest of the finalists spoke (they all did so well) and then it was time. The announcement. Libby got to do it. I was nervous but not expecting to hear my name at all. I went in there mostly knowing who was going to win, and it wasn't going to be me. I was right. She called Regina's name. I felt a tiny stab of disappointment but it was quickly eclipsed by joy. I was so happy for her. Then Alan's name was called. I was thrilled for him as well.

That was it! I hugged and congratulated Regina, hugged and congratulated Alan, shook hands with several people, and off we went back to the van. Amy came with us and we talked about agents and stuff while we drove back to the hotel. Everyone said goodbye. Then I went on Facebook, posted the news, and went to bed.


Airports and airplanes, part II. All day I was enveloped in this weird calm feeling. The thing I'd been obsessing about and preparing for all these weeks was now done. Over. The whole weekend was a whirlwind. I'd gotten 14 hours of sleep in the past three days, had barely eaten, and spent 99% of the time basically freaking out about what was happening. It felt like a dream.

In Chicago that day, our flight was delayed an hour because Air Force One was at O'Hare. So I can now say that one time, Obama got me home pretty late.

Flying back into Halifax, the sky was full of stars. Maybe it was the extreme fatigue or an after-effect from the Chicago hotdog I had at O'Hare, but when I looked down and saw my city and my ocean, I got a little teary-eyed. I was home.

Final Thoughts

I can't even put this experience into words. Looking back on it, I can't believe I actually did that. Flew to Seattle. Met all those people. Made it this far in the contest. But I'm so glad I did. I made a whole set of new friends, writers like me, amazing men and women who made this trip even better than I expected it to be.

Regina, you are so warm and sweet. Your win is well-deserved and I'm so happy for you.
Casey, I loved hearing about your cool job. Thank you so much for assuring me that I was pronouncing "subarachnoid" correctly.
Alan, you are hilarious and I love that I was able to recognize you just from your hair-do. Your win is also well-deserved and I'm also so happy for you.
Chuck, I loved hearing all your interesting stories. I'm still so impressed that you recited your passage with hardly a glance down at the words.
Brian, it was a pleasure sitting across from you and Rae at dinner and beside you at breakfast. Thanks for saying "no" when we said "We don't talk funny, do we?"

I have to mention all the swag we got from Amazon. A Kindle Touch, several books, a glass trophy with our names and book titles etched on it, and a printed paperback of our own books, the inside cover personally signed by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.

I also have to mention Thom Kephart again. Not only is he a super hero, but he's also extremely nice. His enthusiasm and love for this contest is evident. He did such a great job organizing everything, answering our questions, and just generally being there for us and supporting us.

Lastly, thank you to Amazon, Penguin, Publisher's Weekly, and CreateSpace. There are a lot of people involved in this contest and it's getting more popular each year. If you're reading this and wondering if you should enter? DO IT. You never know, right?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sixteen days

[To follow my ABNA journey from the very beginning, click the ABNA label at the bottom of this post]

Voting is officially over and only a few people know the winners. The public (and the six finalists) will find out on June 16.

I'm relieved now that it's over. Asking people for anything is so out of my comfort zone. I've done all I can do to get votes. Now I can forget about that part and focus on freaking out about Seattle.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me. If I win, I'll be happy. If I don't win, I won't be sad. This contest has already opened doors for me. I'll be okay either way.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Author page

Please "like" my AUTHOR PAGE on Facebook!

Tomorrow is the last day to vote for Out of Nowhere, so expect another onslaught.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Grateful" doesn't even begin to describe it.

[To follow my ABNA journey from the very beginning, click the ABNA label at the bottom of this post]

I'm completely overwhelmed and touched by the support I've received from my family, friends, and perfect strangers these past two days. Everyone I know went above and beyond in getting the word out, asking for votes, sharing the voting link, and just generally being awesome. I owe you all a huge THANK YOU. Seriously, you all rock.

Also, I read the other finalists' excerpts and I have to say, they are amazing. So much talent in this group. It's intimidating to be sitting next to them.

Special thanks to Cara Bertrand, one of last year's finalists, for being my mentor of sorts on Tuesday! You helped to reduce my anxiety and that's not an easy feat.

Voting is open until May 30 so there's still time to VOTE if you haven't already.

Stay tuned for more excited ramblings about my ABNA journey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Big ABNA news!

[To follow my ABNA journey from the very beginning, click the ABNA label at the bottom of this post]

(I've been writing this blog post all week, so it would be fresh in my mind.)

Finally, after a long and torturous week of sitting on the biggest and most exciting news of my life, I'm allowed to sing it from the rooftops.

I am a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest


Here's a taste of how last week unfolded:

Monday morning

Did some laundry, swept and mopped the kitchen floors, surfed the net, etc. Typical Monday. Not nervous, not anxious, not expecting a call from Seattle in any way, shape, or form. While I was putting a load of laundry away, I started thinking about the 2010 ABNA finalists' books and how one of them (the winner) dealt with the aftermath of losing a parent, just like my book does (though my book is nothing like hers in any other way). I thought "There you have it...there's no way they'll have another "death of father aftermath" book in the finals." I was 100% convinced then. It wouldn't be me.

12:53pm AST (8:53am PST) -- I was sitting at my desk in the kitchen, laptop open, right next to the phone. It rang. I looked at the call display. It said "Long Distance" and there was a phone number. A previous finalist on the ABNA boards had mentioned that when she was called, it said "Amazon" on the call display. I did not know the area code for Seattle, so I thought it was a survey or something. I picked it up, and the following occurred: 

Amazon Lady: May I please speak to Rebecca Phillips?
Me: This is Rebecca.
Amazon Lady: This is _________(I forget her name) calling from Amazon. I'm excited to tell you that you're a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.
Me: ................................
Amazon Lady: .................................??
Me: ........................ (some articulate sound like "gahhhblurgugh")............Are you serious?
Amazon Lady: (probably thinking, "No, I have nothing better to do that call random people and trick them into thinking they're finalists.") Yes, I'm very serious. We're going to fly you to Seattle for the awards ceremony on June 16.
Me: ..................................
Amazon Lady (probably wondering about what kind of freak she was dealing with): I hope you're sitting down?
Me: my God............blubber babble babble snerg blargh.

There was more but I honestly don't remember it in detail. She told me to keep the news to immediate family only until public announcement on May 22, mentioned something about Penguin loving Out of Nowhere, gave me the phone number for Thom Kephart (ABNA admin), I babbled some more, she said congratulations and we hung up. I then proceeded to have a nervous breakdown.

I can tell you, with 100% honesty, that I have never been so shocked in my entire life. I felt like I was going to pass out. I was shaking. I was crying. My tongue was numb. My first coherant thought was Holy crap I have to get a passport like NOW. I do not have a passport. I'm Canadian. I need one to get into the US.  So I started googling passport processing times. That was when my husband came upstairs (he works from home). I said to him, "Looks like I'll have to get a passport." He was like "Huh"? And I was like "We're going to Seattle." And then he put the pieces together and all of a sudden I was standing up and we were hugging. He had tears. I had tears. He was proud. I had more tears. I was still in shock. My tongue, however, had thankfully regained feeling.

Next I told my parents, then my friend Shannon (not immediate family but she was the first person to read Out of Nowhere and helped me make it the best it could be), then my kids when they got home from school, all of whom I swore to secrecy. Then, if you can believe it, I did more laundry. I do not recall folding and putting away said laundry, but I did. Laundry needs to be done, even when you feel like you've been pummeled with bowling balls.

I did not and could not eat dinner. Even though it was leftover BBQ ribs from Mother's Day.

That evening, I received some legal forms in my inbox. Now it was really real. I wasn't dreaming. I spent the rest of the evening getting my passport photo taken, filling out a passport application, and printing, signing, scanning, and sending all those Amazon forms back. At 11pm I collapsed into bed and watched a couple of episodes of Seinfeld until I finally dropped off to sleep. 


That morning I went to Passport Canada and provided the necessary papers. Passport should be in well before the middle of June. One thing down. 

In the evening I received a call from Thom Kephart, the ABNA administrator. He was very nice. He told me a little about what would happen next, ie. travel, PR, the awards in Seattle, etc. 

I did eat dinner, but not much.


Shock had completely worn off by then, but every once in a while it would hit me (I AM A FINALIST!!!!) and I'd feel very overwhelmed. NOW I was expecting a call from Amazon, but only to tell me that they'd made a huge mistake.

That evening I got another email from Thom, requesting travel information and detailing what would happen on June 16th: first a breakfast meeting with him and all six finalists, then a gala awards event at 6:30. During this gala, there would be dinner and several speakers, including the finalists, who are asked to read a passage from their book (!!!!!!). Then the winner would be announced. I was DYING to know who the other finalists were, but like everyone else I had to wait until May 22.

After American Idol (They were in the top 3 phase too! Funny, since ABNA is often considered the American Idol of writing contests), I emailed my info and went to bed.


Got an email from Thom, thanking me for the travel info. Can't believe I'm going to Seattle! I've never been.


Morning - Got an email from the publicity person at Penguin (Penguin! Is emailing! Me!!!), telling me to expect a call later that afternoon (Penguin! Is calling! Me!!!) She also asked for a picture of me and a two-line bio for the contest announcement/press release. I sent the picture that my husband took of me about three or four years ago, for an article I had published in Today's Parent magazine. Not the best picture of me, but when you're as unphotogenic as I am, you learn not to be too picky. I still look basically the same now, only I have a few extra pounds residing in my rear somewhere.

Penguin called in the afternoon and I spoke to three extremely nice people who asked me a few questions about myself and my book. I was nervous, of course. I mean, this in the 2nd largest publishing house IN THE WORLD. Talking to ME. At one point in the conversation, I was asked which YA authors inspired me. Of course, right away I mentioned Sarah Dessen, who has been a huge inspiration to me and is basically the main reason why I decided to seriously write YA. Penguin was excited to hear this because Sarah is a Penguin author! So is John Green, who I also adore (I mentioned him too). Then, after I got off the phone, I realized I was just talking to people who probably talk to Sarah Dessen and John Green on a regular basis. I may have hyperventilated a little.


Amazon put the finalist list up really early. I'm just over the moon about my experts' reviews. Two of them picked me to be the winner! Again, this is extremely surreal.  Big thanks to my family, friends, Amazon, CreateSpace, and Penguin. What an amazing experience this has been, from beginning to end.

Vote for Out of Nowhere!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just You v.2.0

I decided a while back that I was going to self-publish my first two books. All I need is a couple of book covers. My husband, who is good with that sort of thing, promised me he'd make them for me. He's super busy with work right now so while I wait, I've been going over my first book. It was written three years ago and damn, I've gotten better since then. I look at at what I've written and think OMG what was I thinking?? I do not want to put my name on this disaster and release it to the public just yet! So for the past few days I've been busy revising it and already, it's better. More of a plot, more emotion, tighter writing, more vivid personalities. It looks more like me now.

Hopefully, both books will be on the virtual bookshelves sometime this summer.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Work in Progress

I noticed I have some new readers this week. Welcome and thanks for looking!

In the weeks before the ABNA finalist announcement, I've been keeping busy outlining my fourth book. You know, naming characters, figuring out what they're going to look like, creating character traits/personalities/flaws/etc, jotting down themes and plot ideas, etc, etc. This will be yet another contemporary YA but with more of an edge. People like edge. Teens like edge. Publishers and agents like edge. So I'll give it edge. Less Sarah Dessen, more Courtney Summers. Less Adele, more Metallica. Less oatmeal, more salsa. You know what I mean. Edge.

Now I just have to figure how to execute it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shock and awe

[To follow my ABNA journey from the very beginning, click the ABNA label at the bottom of this post]

Somehow, some way, Out of Nowhere made it to the semifinals of the ABNA contest. Somehow, some way, my name keeps appearing in the "next round" lists. It's insane. Yesterday morning I had several anxiety attacks as I waited for the results. The list came up at exactly 12:00pm AST. I took a deep breath and opened it up, scrolling down the list of names, looking for "P" for my last name. Didn't see it. I thought "Oh well..." and scrolled through again to see who did make it. Then I looked at the "R"s and saw my name. Rebecca. I slapped a hand over my mouth, muttering "Oh my God" over and over. After a few seconds of total freak-out, I told my husband and then posted the news on Facebook. It was awesome. I then waited several more hours for my Publisher's Weekly review, which I was no longer really worried about because, of course, I made it through so it had to be good. It was good.
This manuscript is a very good example of a contemporary coming-of-age novel, with well-rounded characters and honest emotion. Riley is a hypochondriac, worried that stomach pain is appendicitis or a hernia. She's been that way ever since her father collapsed in their kitchen and an 11-year-old Riley found him. Adding additional complexity to Riley's character, that event also inspires her to be a doctor. She spends time with friends Eva and Sydney, and works with her friend, the closeted Lucas. When Riley goes to the ER for an allergic reaction, she meets Cole, who's had a skateboarding accident. Later, by chance, Cole stops by the coffee shop where Riley works, and a friendship begins that soon turns to romance, distracting Riley from her problems at home. Cole encourages Riley to start facing her father's death, yet the closer they get, the more Riley worries that Cole's daredevil ways will get him hurt or worse. But when Riley's mother announces two major changes for their lives, Riley lashes out. Riley's story is thoughtful and grounded, showing the impact of a traumatic event years after the event occurred. Even supporting characters are well-rounded, and the relationships ring true.
Isn't it nice? Today, it's still surreal.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vine reviews

[To follow my ABNA journey from the very beginning, click the ABNA label at the bottom of this post]

Putting these here for posterity, as they will disappear after the semifinal announcement on the 24th.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

Main character development is very strong. The reader wants to know more about Riley and about how she moves past her trauma and who helps her.

What aspect needs the most work?

Maybe the secondary characters could be improved. The mother seems to be a strong positive woman but she is not really emphasized. Maybe she is later in the book, of course.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

This is a very interesting book, with possible appeal to girls going through difficult times. And what teen girl does not feel she is having a difficult life? The main character has had tragedy strike her and has developed some phobias but is still working hard for a goal. This would make it excellent for a school library or for a parent to get for a child.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The writing is really solid and professional. The dialogue is believable, and so are the characters. There's just the right amount of description.

What aspect needs the most work?

So far, it's not a hugely mesmerizing story. It's interesting and draws you in, but it's not gripping.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

Very sound writing and could get more compelling as the story progresses. It's just hard to tell from this excerpt, which is really just setting things up.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quarterfinals, baby!

[To follow my ABNA journey from the very beginning, click the ABNA label at the bottom of this post]

On Tuesday, much to my shock, I advanced to the quarterfinals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. I swear, I almost fell out of my chair. Then I did a little dance. Then I squealed a little. Then I told everyone I knew. It was awesome.

Publisher's Weekly will read and review my full manuscript. I am terrified. What if they hate it? What if the person has something against contemporary YA? On the other hand, what if they LIKE it and I advance to the top 50? I think my head would literally explode. The next round will be announced on April 24, which is also my 13th wedding anniversary. I know that I will not sleep or eat that day. Double celebration? Let's hope.

My excerpt is up at, but there are formatting issues with everyone's entries so I want to wait until that's resolved before I link the page to my family and friends.

I'm stoked.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest

[To follow my ABNA journey from the very beginning, click the ABNA label at the bottom of this post]

For the third year in a row, I entered the increasingly popular Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest, aka American Idol for writers. And for the second time, I made it to Hollywood...err, I mean, Round 2! This just means I wrote a pitch interesting enough to rate a couple of reviews of my 5000 word excerpt. If that goes well, I get a review of my full manuscript from Publishers Weekly. If that goes well...well, I can't even think that far ahead right now.

I'm a little scared about the excerpt. It's the first 5000 words of the manuscript, in which--with my novel at least--the real story hasn't quite started yet. Let's hope these reviewers smell something good cooking.

I'm actually really surprised because I wasn't expecting to advance at all. My book is 100% free of vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, zombies, fairies, poltergeists, gnomes, or three-headed unicorns with super powers. I hear agents are getting sick of mythical creatures anyway.

So here's the pitch that got me this far:

At eleven years old, Riley Tate witnessed the sudden death of her father. Now, at sixteen, she still can’t bring herself to step on “the spot”—-the section of kitchen floor on which her father landed after collapsing from a brain aneurysm. For someone like Riley, a hypochondriac with anxiety issues, moving on is never easy.

Since losing her dad, Riley has become obsessed with the human body, how it works, and what can go wrong with it. Reading about diseases distracts her from the things she’s not ready to deal with, like the fact that her mother started a whole new family with a man who has more muscles than brains and tries to act like her new dad. And that her doctor thinks she’s a mental case. And that her ex-boyfriend dumped her because she wouldn’t have sex with him. But she refuses to let anything—-especially not a guy—-interfere with her dream of becoming a surgeon.

When she meets Cole Boyer in an ER waiting room, Riley realizes immediately that he’s far from the safe, predictable boy she usually goes for. A fearless daredevil with mysterious scars and a thirst for all things dangerous, Cole is like an accident waiting to happen. Still, despite their differences, they forge an unlikely friendship that eventually blossoms into something more. Dating someone who’s so casual about death has its challenges, but as Riley soon learns, not everyone can be—-or needs to be—-saved.

OUT OF NOWHERE is a 69,000 word contemporary young adult novel that will appeal to fans of authors like Sarah Dessen and Elizabeth Scott. With flawed, relatable characters and a blend of heavy issues and humor, OUT OF NOWHERE explores the total randomness of life, death, and love.

My baby is now out in the world.

I'm am totally overwhelmed and delighted with all the support I received today (and every day) from my family and friends. Writing is a lonely, frustrating job, and just knowing there are people out there pulling for me helps a lot. THANK YOU!

Next cut is announced on March 20. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A lot has happened since my last post...

In December, I finally finished the first draft my manuscript. Then I gave it to my beta reader (hi, Shannon!) to critique and fish out the mistakes. Then I revised. Last week, I wrote the first draft of my query/pitch. This week, I'm doing more revisions on the manuscript. Next week, I'll do revisions on the query because I'm still not 100% happy with it and I don't know why. On January 23, I will enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest for the third time in a row. Hope I'm ready!